The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
Little, Brown & Co., 2010
(part of the YA Contemps challenge)
Alex is a junior at the prestigious Themis Academy, a boarding school that prides itself on its "perfect" students. During her first Friday night out-with-privileges, Alex winds up flirting with a boy she just met. The next thing she knows, she's waking up naked next to said boy. While Alex would be content to write herself off as a slut, Alex's roommates and her sister help convince her that she was, in fact, date raped. Once the boy begins telling all of his friends that she was "an easy lay," Alex feels the need to retreat, to hide. Turning to school admin is not an option, nor does Alex feel comfortable going to the police. What other option is left, then, but...the Mockingbirds.
The Mockingbirds are a student-run group created just a few years earlier by Alex's own sister. The school may turn a blind eye to what's going on, but the Mockingbirds are dedicated to doing good for the sake of good. They hear student cases, they judge the cases, they delegate punishments when the accused are found guilty. And the Mockingbirds have agreed to hear Alex's case.
This book was awesome! Early reviews have compared it to Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, which I suppose is fair to a certain extent, since both books deal with the topic of rape. However, The Mockingbirds was just so full of hope for me. Yes, Alex was date raped, and yes, her school has the tendency to gloss over serious infractions (students will only ever get kicked out for failing. Drug overdoses and physical and mental attacks on other students are all A-OK!), but Alex has this incredible circle of friends surrounding and protecting her until she's ready to make her own decisions and stand up for herself. We are witness to Alex's growth as a character, and we know, as she does, that her confidence grows partly because of her wonderful support system.
I felt Whitney did a great job of getting readers right into Alex's head. We learn right along with Alex, as her memory returns, the details of the night leading up to the rape, but we're also right there with Alex as she imagines a conversation she's "participating" in as a TV cop show. I felt it was a realistic portrayal of a person's mind: we're very rarely focusing on just one thing at a time, and Alex was a great example of that.
Date rape is most definitely a serious issue, and is handled as such in this book. What's brought up more than once addresses the old adage that "no means no." The theme circulating in this books is that "yes means yes; everything else means no," a saying that I wish would become more mainstream. The author herself was date raped in college, and although this book is fiction, she does provide a note about her own experience and several helpful resources.
ARC received by the publisher. The Mockingbirds was released on 11.02.2010.
Enjoy your reading!